posted at 1:01 pm on February 14, 2017 by John Sexton
Conservatives in the House are getting antsy about the slow progress toward the repeal of Obamacare. The House Freedom Caucus plans to urge Speaker Paul Ryan to move forward with the reconciliation bill that was sent to President Obama last year rather than waiting for elements of a replacement plan to come together.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker tells Politico, “Instead of continuing to spin our wheels, we need a starting place.” He adds, “What the Senate passed in October 2015 is the best starting place. … Let’s get that on that on the books; then we can move quickly after that to put in replacement components.”
The alternative plan, dubbed repeal plus, is to create a new reconciliation bill which includes elements of the GOP replacement plan. But House conservatives worry this will create months of squabbling over elements of the new plan, leading some in the Senate to have second thoughts. From Politico:
“Functionally, [our idea] eliminates some of the excuses for our Senate colleagues; if they voted on this then, there is no reason they can’t vote on it now,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). “I think a lot of people are looking to some of the policy debates to be an excuse not to vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act.”…
“My concern is [a repeal-replace bill] will give some lackadaisical senator a reason to vote against it,” said Freedom Caucus member Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). “My concern is the entire repeal is in mortal danger. … There may be some people who will get weak-kneed.”
House conservatives are said to have 50 members ready to push for repeal now without the replacement elements.
There has been an ongoing argument over repeal and replace since Trump won the election. One of the main arguments for moving on repeal first was that Democrats would never collaborate on a replacement so long as delay and obstructionism would leave the current plan in place. However, if Obamacare was repealed first, Democrats would have less incentive to block a replacement plan.
It seems House conservatives are now applying this same logic to moderate members of their own party in the Senate. The argument is that trying to repeal and replace at the same time creates an opportunity to drag repeal into the weeds and kill it. However, if conservatives push for a straight vote then the moderates have no cover, no excuse to offer for why they voted the way they did. They either vote for repeal or against it.
The conservatives may be right about GOP moderates looking to go wobbly in the Senate. But it’s also true that there is a danger to repeal without a plan to replace. The moment it passes, the already shaky Obamacare market will collapse. But in order to have an orderly transition, rather than chaos, the GOP will need time to roll out the eventual replacement. That means it may be necessary to prop up Obamacare for an additional year even after it is repealed. What seems very unlikely is that the GOP could repeal Obamacare and then pass a replacement which is ready to be fully implemented by the end of this year.
Either way, Democrats will be hoping for a disaster equal to or greater than the initial roll out of Obamacare. That would be a nice lead in to the 2018 elections, giving them a ready made argument that the GOP is incapable of governing.